Trained to think and look at things in a Greek way, we
First-World people have a hard time reading and understanding the Bible. This
is especially true when we go to the Scriptures looking for answers to specific problems.
The sacred authors thought and looked at thing as Semites, not Greeks. For such people,
theres no one answer for any specific problem. Just when we think their writings
have provided us a response to our question and start to turn away hugging our treasure,
the author pulls us back to the book with the statement: But, on the other
hand...! By nature, Semites always have more than one answer for any question. If
they cant come up with at least a handful of responses, theyd be accused of
not thinking deeply enough about the problem.
This multiple-answer syndrome is verified in Sundays
readings. Especially in our first and third passages, the question revolves around what it
means for God to call someone. As Ive mentioned in other columns, each biblical
writer resumes everyone reading his or her work has received a specific, personal call
from God. Every reader is interested in how God calls, to what God calls and how one
should respond to that call. The author of the first reading (I Sam 3: 3-10, 19) gives us
Samuel, the hero of his narrative, as an example for those who first hear God calling
them. The reading beings with a biblical version of Abbott and Costellos
Whos On First routine. Only after Eli finally realizes Yahwehs
calling the boy does he tell him how to respond: in this case, Speak, your servant
is listening. The sacred authors are convinced that God doesnt tell us what He
wants us to do until we first assure Him that were listening. They believe
Gods always calling, but only those listening for such a call ever hear it. Those
who refuse to listen either hear nothing or think the voice is coming from
somewhere or someone else.
But that valuable insight isnt the last word on calls.
John the Evangelist approaches divine invitations from another angle. In the Gospel (Jn 1:
35-42), Jesus doesnt give His first three disciples an actual call. The initial pair
are simply looking for something. When they eventually discover that Jesus is where
its at, Andrew leaves, gets his brother Simon, and brings him to Jesus. At
this point, one of the most significant effects of someones responding to a call
happens: a name change. Because Semites believe a name represents an individuals
personality, name changes are a way of describing a shift in someones value system.
Responding to Gods call always transforms us into new persons. Here, the Cephas who
went away from Jesus was no longer the Simon who came to Him. Though Paul doesnt
explicitly mention any call in the second reading (I Cor 6: 1-15, 17-20), the implications
of being called runs all through the passage. According to the Apostle, once we respond to
Jesus call to imitate His dying and rising, our relationship with everything and
everyone around us changes - even our relationship with our own bodies. Because our
Christian faith makes us one with the risen Jesus, our whole self, including our bodies,
become members of Christ. That means that any immorality we conjure up has
repercussions not only in our body, but also in the whole body of Christ. Once we respond
to Jesus call, the effects of our personal actions become broader than our person.
Were no longer our own. Those who turn to Scripture in search of a
single answer to their question about calls from God will quickly discover that
theyre holding in their hands not one response, but a whole book of answers.